As you can imagine, I spend a lot of time looking at, coding, and dissecting websites. As we roll into the new year, I wanted to share some tips for getting a good site together to tackle 2010.
Websites don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Oftentimes I tell my new business owners to start small and add room for growth. If you aren’t sure your company is going to sell 250 products because you only have 10 right now, you can begin with a smaller site more manageable – just make sure there is room to grow in the long run.
If you know you want a 5 page website that is informational only, and this content may not change much over the year – you can probably go with a static site coded in xhtml. But if you believe you will want to change content on a regular basis, consider a content management system – which allows you, the client, to make those changes rather than going through a designer/developer who will charge for the services.
First, before I begin with tips, understand that developers and designers can be all in one, or you might have a developer who does no design and vice versa. In fact, many developers (those programmers who do coding such as php) don’t design and many designers do not know coding such as php and asp. Is this a problem? Not particularly, as long as you understand what you need. Generally for a new site you will require both – someone who designs it to make it pretty and easy to use, and someone who develops the site on the back end. This is particularly true with very in depth sites that use databases and intricate coding languages.
With these facts in mind, consider the following. These are questions you should be asking your developer/designer before work begins – actually, before a contract is even signed.
- What programming languages are you familiar and / or comfortable with? Determine if the person can do both jobs, or if they can only do one. If only one, do they work with someone who does the other or do you then need to go out and find someone with whom they will need to work?
- Will the site be cross browser compatible? I can’t tell you how many sites I’ve seen that are not. They look fine in Internet Explorer but view them in Firefox and everything is left justified. Find this out prior to starting your site. You should have a site that looks good in all top browsers. This is done by creating a stylesheet for EACH browser – if the site is not working in all with just one style sheet. (A good designer will check your sites for you prior to publishing files to make sure it works in major browsers).
- Steer clear of heavy flash. Seriously. Let’s leave flash behind in the ’90s, using it only in places such as a fancy slideshow or if you must a front page only. I don’t like flash. Search engines can’t read it (it’s a movie file). Utilize good, clean code.
- Consider layout. Ask for several drafts if you must. Does the site flow together? Do images and/or headers stand out if they need to? Are the colors compatible with one another? Ask for a photoshop mock up prior to agreeing to coding. You really need to make sure you are happy with the design before the coder starts to code.
- Check your alt tags! Every image on your site should have an alt tag that offers a description of that picture. Make sure this is included for all images on your site.
- Get the files. All of them. Once the site is completed, request a zip folder that includes all working files, such as photoshop files used to create graphics on the site, and all finalized web files. This way, if anything ever happens to the site, you can at least revert back to your originals.
- Consider SEO. Not the old gobbledy gook that writers put out there to get up in the search engines, but correct and proper techniques such as headers, alt tags, metas, and if you are using a program like wordpress, plug ins that focus on SEO. Make sure the company you are using can analyze your site, and if you must, pay for this for the first several months to make sure you are progressing when it comes to getting your name out there.
The new year is a great time to make changes! Make sure your web site is working for you this year.